Save the Date

January 21, 2018 sermon
By John Ulrich, Lead Pastor

Luke 14:15-24

The “You’re Invited” sermon series looks at four of Jesus’ parables about inviting. It’s all about the invitation we‘ve received from God and the invitation we give to others.

  • Week One: Looked at God’s invitation to us in the Prodigal Son.
  • Week Two: Began to look at our need to invite others in the Parable of the Soils.
  • Today we looked at who we should invite in the Parable of the Great Feast.

Pastor John wove together (1) The story of Hope and Ricky Tharrington’s dinner party, (2) the Parable, and (3) the application of the parable into the following three points:

  1. A feast is coming (verses 15-17). Hope Tharrington had prepared a feast for guests. Likewise, in the parable, a wealthy host had invited guests who had RSVP’d, and prepared a great banquet, and the time for eating the meal had come. A feast was coming. And a feast is coming for all of God’s people in the future. Called the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-10), this is a time when all of God’s people, from Old Testament Jews, to New Testament Christians, will gather together for God’s Great Feast. This is the feast that the man referred to in verse 15, and is the feast symbolized in the Parable.
  2. The Likely Guests are Declining (verses 18-20). Hope’s guests, who had RSVP’d, all got sick one by one and had to cancel! Likewise in the parable, the guests began to cancel. We should notice the following about these guests and their cancellation:
    a. These are the very people you would expect at the feast. These people had the wealth to make land deals, and purchase several oxen at once. They were the movers and shakers of Israelite society. They were likely guests.
    b. Their reasons for cancellation varied in validity. The first excuse of buying land without seeing it, seems ridiculous. The last excuse may be more valid. Either way, the point seems to be that although they liked the idea of the feast…when the time came, they would not commit to actually attend. They were too busy with their own agendas.
    c. The feast went on without them. We don’t know what they thought would happen when they declined, but what happened was, they were left to their own priorities, and the feast went on without them.
  3. We may know people who, like the guests, seem likely to be at the feast in heaven; maybe they are close to us, maybe they are likeable, maybe they are moral, but they seem really likely to be there; but they haven’t responded to God’s offer. Maybe like the guests in the parable, they aren’t against Christ…they just have other priorities. But the parable shows us that there is a time when the preparations are finished, there will be no more inviting or convincing, and the feast will go on with or without them. We need to respond to God’s offer while we still have time!So God sends us to the unlikely and unknown (verses 21-14). The host of the feast responded to the refusal of the likely guests by sending his servants to invite two groups: (1) The unlikely. People from his town that he would have known of, that were poor, blind, and lame. And (2) the unknown. People from outside his town that were travelling on the highways and country lanes.

Likewise, God sends us not just to those we think are likely to respond to his offer of salvation, but also to the unlikely—those who may seem a little less likely to respond positively (those who might not seem comfortable in church, those we haven’t thought of as potential guests in our church or small group). And God sends us to the unknown. To those we may not know well, perhaps of a different culture, different segment of society, people we just meet in passing. God wants us to invite all of these groups to his feast.

Discussion Questions

  1. God’s invitation is not exclusive, but it is time-sensitive. What’s at stake if this invitation is missed (Matthew 22:1-14 has a similar but much more severe parable that may enter into the discussion)?
  2. To invite the “unlikely” and the “unknown” we first have to understand the value of the invitation.
  3. How can we better understand the value of Christ’s invitation into His kingdom?
  4. The characters in the story found the invitation inconvenient. Was it easier to see your own excuses or those of others? Why? What are some of the excuses we give that prevent us from responding to Jesus?
  5. Can you give example of people that you think would be likely to respond to Christ’s offer of salvation but haven’t?
  6. Can you give a description of someone you know (and your small group doesn’t know!) who you think of as unlikely to respond to Christ?
  7. Give some examples of the unknown. Who are some people you don’t know well, but that you might try inviting to a small group activity, to Small Group, or to Church.

Introduction

A week ago last Friday our good friends Hope and Ricky Tharrington prepared a feast! If you don’t know Hope and Ricky, I should tell you that they are on the Lead Team here at Perry Creek. If you do know Hope and Ricky, I don’t have to tell you that a meal at their house is not a thing to miss! The Tharringtons have the gift of hospitality, and Hope is an amazing cook! But this time it wasn’t just a meal Hope was fixing. It was a feast!

Hope had decided that she wanted to invite the seminary student families in our church – the Maidens, the Gossets and the Abels – over for dinner. She didn’t just want to do dinner. She had thought about these families. She realized they didn’t have a lot of extra money, so she wanted to treat them to a really special night. She had made arrangements for child care at her house. She had sent out invitations and gotten “yes”from these couples. She had set the menu: marinated beef tenderloin with au jus, company mashed potatoes (the kind with 14 pounds of butter and cream cheese), stir fried vegetables, home-made yeast rolls, and for dessert, chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries. She was going to knock their socks off! When Friday afternoon arrived, the guests had RSVP’d. The flowers had been bought and arranged. The tenderloin had been purchased and marinated, and the yeast rolls were rising. A feast was coming!

The reason I’m telling you about Hope’s feast today is because her story perfectly mirrors the story of the parable that we are going to look at today: The Parable of the Great Feast. The setting of this parable was the anticipation of a feast. Let me give you some background. Jesus had been invited to dinner at the home of a pharisee, one of Israel’s religious leaders on a Sabbath Day. While they were waiting for the meal, the tension in the room began to rise. First, a sick man had come into the home, and Jesus had healed him on a Sabbath – something the Pharisees always disapproved of. Second, Jesus had noticed how the guests, when they arrived, had wrangled for the seats of honor at the table So he rebuked them, pointing out that in God’s Kingdom the last would be first and the first, last. That didn’t win him any brownie points! Then finally, Jesus had insulted the homeowner. When Jesus saw all the high-powered people that had been invited to the meal, he told the homeowner that when you host a dinner you shouldn’t invite just the beautiful people, the people you like, the people who can pay you back. You should invite the needy, the blind, those who can’t repay you. Then you will be rewarded in heaven.

I’m not sure that sat well with the homeowner. You get the impression when you read this chapter that by the time they got through the soup course they were down to short words and short sentences. It was a tense meal! Suddenly in the middle of the meal, someone blurted something out about a feast! Look at what Luke says:

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
– Luke 14:1

Just blurted that out! Now, I’m not sure why this man said that! Maybe he thought it would ease the tension! Maybe he wanted to show Jesus that he knew his Bible really well and knew about the feast in God’s Kingdom. Maybe he was expressing his certainty the he was going to be part of that feast! Whatever the reason, he said it. Jesus responded by telling a parable about a man who had prepared a great feast. Jesus started the Parable this way:

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
– Luke 14:16-17

So this man had already sent out the “Save the Dates.” His guests had responded with hearty RSVPs. He had prepared the meal. Now everything was ready. A feast was coming.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this before, but the Bible teaches that there is a big feast coming for all of God’s people. Several years ago, I did a study of food in the Bible, and I learned a lot of things. I learned that food is really, really important in the Bible! One of the things I learned as I studied the Bible is that there is one big meal that sort of runs throughout the whole Bible and just sort of morphs from time to time as it goes along. It starts out as the Passover in the Old Testament. It becomes the Last Supper in Jesus’ time. In the New Testament, it turns into the Lord’s supper, which we observed last week. But in the end, this meal is going to turn into a gigantic feast. The conclusion of Passover and the Last Supper and the Lord’s Supper is a huge feast at the end of time for all of God’s people.

This is what the man at the Pharisee’s house was referring to when he said “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God.” This is the feast that this parable ultimately has reference to. The Book of Revelation calls it the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. It’s a time when all of God’s people, the Jews who trusted God in the Old Testament and those since the coming of Jesus, who have placed their trust in Him, will all gather together for one giant meal.

Just like in our story, the invitations for this meal have gone out all over the earth in the form of the gospel. Just like in our story, many have RSVP’d. Many have accepted Christ. Just like in our story, a time is coming when preparations for this feast are going to end. There won’t be any more invitations, because the feast is going to start! And it’s going to be incredible! For Hope and Ricky’s friends, for the characters in our parable and for us, a feast is coming!

The Likely Are Declining

Back to our friends, the Tharringtons. In the middle of the week, Hope started to hear rumblings that their dinner might not actually go according to plan. On Wednesday afternoon, she got a heads-up that Riley Abel, the little daughter of Danny and Kayla Abel, was sick and throwing up. On Thursday, John Maiden mentioned to her that Sarah took a long nap and did not seem to be feeling great when she woke up. But it was Friday morning when things really started falling apart. First, she found out John Duke would not be coming. His grandparents would take care of him. Then she heard that the Abels were not coming at all. Kayla was sick, and Danny needed to stay home and help her and Riley. So there went her plans for the children! Then she heard that Sarah Maiden was really sick and would not be able to attend at all. The Gossets were next. Frank got sick, and they would not be able to attend. That left John Maiden, who tried really hard to make it work with just Hope, Ricky, and him. But I think John was relieved when Hope said “Let’s just give it a miss!” In a matter of a few hours, it looked like Hope had gone from a feast with eight adults, child care, and two kids to her and Ricky eating on TV trays and watching Wheel of Fortune. Hope’s likely guest, who had RSVP’d, were not actually going to come to her feast!

Now if you know the parable you know exactly where this story is headed. The Maidens, Gossetts, and Abels are not going to go to heaven. They’ve been excluded from the feast! Just kidding!!! They were all very sick! They had what my Dad used to call the dreaded gombouli! They had a really bad stomach virus! So no offense guys, but Hope didn’t actually want you there! At any rate, Hope and Ricky had landed themselves in the spot where their likely guests would not be attending.

As Jesus continued to tell this parable of the Great Feast, the same thing began to happen in the story. The likely guests for this great feast began to decline. Listen to what Jesus says in verses 18-20. This is just after the servant has gone to tell these guests who had RSVP’d that the feast was now ready.

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
– Luke 14:18-20

Now there are three things we should note about these guests and their excuses:

These were the very people you would assume would be at the feast

If you could afford to throw a feast like this and you were going to do it right, these are the very people you would assume would be on the guest list. They are the movers and shakers of first century Jewish culture. They are the kind of people that could make land deals! They are the wealthy. They could afford to buy five yoke of oxen at once! Most people in Israel could only afford to own one to two pairs of oxen. They were the original invitees. They were the likely. These are the very people you would expect to be at the feast.

Their excuses varied in validity

They gave different excuses, and I have to say, some of them were more reasonable than others. The first excuse is really pretty lame. Who buys a piece of land without even looking at it? Not even most rich people would do that!

The second excuse is maybe a tiny bit better. Oxen were not as expensive of an investment as land, so there’s not as much money involved in buying oxen. The man might have been able to look at the oxen and make an educated guess as to whether they would be able to do the job or not. But really? Did he really have to try them out on the day of this big feast? Couldn’t he wait a week or at least a few days?

The third excuse is probably the most reasonable of all. The man said he had recently gotten married. The Old Testament law said in Deuteronomy that if you were newly married you were to be relieved of all obligations:

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife. So that may be the most valid excuse of all: But still didn’t this guy know that he was going to be married when the original “Save the Dates” went out?
– Deuteronomy 24:5

So the excuses varied in how valid they were. I don’t think that Jesus’ point is that each of these invitees gave completely ridiculous excuses. So what is Jesus’ point then? I think his point is that there’s a big difference between liking the idea of something and actually committing to do it. I mean it’s the New Year. We all like the idea of losing weight, of getting more rest, and of getting organized. How’s that working out for you? There’s nobody that doesn’t like the idea of those things. But liking the idea of something is not the same thing as committing to do it.

It’s very important that we note the responses of the guests in this story. When the time came for the actual feast, notice they didn’t say “We hate you and we don’t want to come to your silly feast.” They didn’t say “Feasts are for stupid and uneducated people.” They didn’t say “Your cook is terrible!” They didn’t reject the feast outright. They just had other priorities. They had things on their agenda that were important to them. They had bigger fish to fry. These are the movers and shakers of society. They loved the idea of the feast, but their stuff was more important. So they gave excuses that varied in validity.

The third thing we should notice about the story at this point is very important, and it’s this:

The feast went on anyway

I don’t know what these guys thought was going to happen when they gave their excuses. I don’t know if they thought the host would change the date for them, or if they thought the host would beg them and try to convince them to come, or what they thought would happen. But in the end, what happened was this: Guest 1 got to go see his field, guest 2 got to go try out his oxen, guest 3 got to spend some time with his wife, and the feast went right on without them.

You know there are non-Christian people in my life that, to me and maybe to you too, seem like very likely candidates to be in the feast in God’s Kingdom. Maybe they are people that are close to us or people that are like us and we just really, really want them to be there. Maybe they are popular people or maybe we just find them extremely likeable. We think “That guy would make the best Christian!” Maybe they are very moral or religious. Maybe at some time early in their life they even gave a RSVP (an apparent response) to God’s feast, but today Jesus just doesn’t figure into their lives.

Maybe today you are here and you are one of those people. Maybe you are one of those people that we would all look at and say “He would make a great Christian! He’s so likeable. He’s so moral. Maybe deep down inside he is a Christian.” Maybe you’re like the people Jesus told this parable to. People respected them so much that people not only thought they were going to be at the feast in the Kingdom, they were convinced that these men were going to have the best seats in the house! Maybe you’re one of those people that we would all invite to the feast!

Maybe you’re not against Christ. It’s not that you reject him exactly. You kind of even like the idea of Christianity, but you just have other stuff to do. Maybe you’re waiting for God to convince you that you should give your life to Jesus. Maybe you’re thinking you’ll get to it when your schedule clears up. Maybe you’re thinking you can have as much time as you want.

Can I tell you something? I say this as your friend: The feast is coming. As important as you and your priorities are, the feast doesn’t revolve around you. Today I want to assure you that there is going to be a time when all the preparations end and when everything is in place. There will be no more inviting, no more convincing. The feast is going to start. Just like the guests in our parable, there’s a chance that you could miss it. You could miss out on eternity with God.

I’m thinking of a lady that I once knew. She was very moral, very kind, very polite. She helped people for a living. I really like her. She was surrounded by Christians who wanted to see her find life in Jesus. I was just sure that at some time in her life she was going to give her life to Jesus. But she never did. At least not that I know of. Her time ran out. She is now in eternity with no more time to decide. Please don’t let that happen to you.

In our parable a feast was coming and against all expectations, the likely were declining. So what on earth was the host going to do?

So God sends us to the Unlikely and the Unknown

Let’s go back to our friends Hope and Ricky. Remember that when the dreaded gombooli struck, Hope’s feast was well on it’s way to being prepared. The tenderloin was purchased. The rolls had risen. The flowers had been arranged. The feast was coming! What on earth was she going to do? Well, Hope got on her phone and started making calls.

First, she called Kelley and me and asked if we could come for dinner. When she told Kelley the story, Kelley, who didn’t actually know we were going to look at this parable today, said “It’s like that Parable about the Great Feast where the guys guests can’t come so he invites others!” I said “Wait does that make us poor, blind, or lame?” But in the end, we had to decline. But Hope didn’t give up. She kept on calling.

That’s what happened in our parable. The feast was ready. The likely had declined, so the host reacted. He didn’t sit around and feel sorry for himself He didn’t beg and try to convince the original guests to come He just invited others. If we look carefully at the story, we’ll see that he invited two kinds of people. Jesus says this:

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
– Luke 14:21

These are people who lived in the hometown of the master or host. They lived in the streets and alleys of the place where he lived. They would have been somewhat known to him, but these are very unlikely guests at a great feast. They wouldn’t have been dressed very nicely. They probably didn’t smell very nice. They weren’t what you would think of as great conversationalists! They were unlikely. So he invited the unlikely. But the host invited another group as well. Jesus says this:

“ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads/highways and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.
– Luke 14:22-23

These were people who didn’t live in the master’s town. They were people who were outside of town, travelling on the major roads. People who were resting in the hedges by the country lanes, places a foreign traveler would lay down to rest his weary bones. The host now went beyond the likely and even the unlikely to the unknown.

So in the end, the host in this parable did what Jesus did. If you look at Jesus’ ministry here on earth, he went beyond the likely, beyond the movers and shakers and religious leaders of Israel, beyond the people who seemed to have it all together. He went beyond them to the unlikely. Jesus was called a friend of sinners, a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors. He went to those in Israel who seemed like very unlikely to be guests at the feast in God’s Kingdom. And he genuinely loved them.

But he did more than that. Jesus went beyond even these to reach to the Gentiles. He went to non-Jewish people, people who were unknown to his Jewish disciples and did not know about the true God. Those are the people Jesus went to. Yes, to the likely but also to the unlikely and the unknown.

Perry Creek, that’s the message of this parable to us. We now take on the role of the servants in this parable. We, every one of us, have been given a mission from our master, a mission to go beyond reaching out to those we think are likely to reaching out to the unlikely and the unknown.

Chances are we’ve already invited those we think are likely to respond to us. Chances are we have already invited in some way or other our immediate family members our close friends, the people we think we relate well to, the people we think will respond. They may ultimately come to Jesus. They may not, but the invitation has already been given.

Now like in the parable, it’s time to follow Jesus and invite the unlikely, those that we don’t really know how they will respond. Maybe those that we interact with every day that we’ve never seen as people who would join us as we find life in Jesus. Maybe people who don’t look like you would expect them to know their way around a church. Who are those people in your life? We want to love those people right here at the Church at Perry Creek! It’s time to invite the unlikely.

It’s time to invite the unknown people we don’t know well, but they may just be open to our invitation. Maybe they are from a different culture. Maybe they are from a different segment of society. Maybe they are just someone we meet in a chance encounter. I think of my parents who, while they were on the plane ride over here at Thanksgiving, met a lady whose son had recently moved to Raleigh and told them about Perry Creek. I think of Neil Nagamos. The Salisbury’s randomly encountered Neil at Panera and asked him to come to our church. Now he’s a regular part of this place! Who in your life is like that? Who, this week, could you invite to join us in worship or in your small group as we find life in Jesus? It’s time for us to invite these people – not just the likely, but the unlikely and the unknown as well. That’s our mission. Next week, we’ll talk about how to do that.

Just to finish Hope’s story in a way that’s what she did. Hope got on the phone, and she called some special people. She called some less likely guests, guests that she thought on a Friday afternoon might already have plans for the evening. Like her next door neighbors, Ron and Jennie Maier who know Hope’s cooking and were delighted to come. Like the Blues who were busy moving in down the street but were delighted to take a break and eat a home-cooked meal! She also called some less-known guests, like Carly Blue’s brother Arnie, like the Jewish couple whose house backs up to theirs in their development.

In the end, she didn’t have eight adults for supper. She had ten! They had a wonderful time eating Hope’s delicious meal and talking and getting to know one another. But the young seminary families and Kelley and I? We never got a taste of that tenderloin. The message of this parable today is that God has invited us to a feast!!! God calls us to respond to his invitation, and He calls us to invite the likely, the unlikely and the unknown.